National Ballet of China – The Peony Pavillion

In Dance, Lurve..., Manchester on November 27, 2016 at 4:04 am

I’m Chinese, admittedly a western-raised one. I’m clueless to the story of The Peony Pavillion. I wonder if I ever caught the story as a child, maybe in one of the countless Hong Kong production films that I watched. I do remember plenty of ghost stories, there’s a fascination in ghosts and spirits, I might have seen an interpretation of this?

Anyway, it’s one of the most famous tales in China, their equivalent of Romeo and Juliet. To sum it up – here’s an extract from The Guardian (by Judith Mackrell):

Its story is based on China’s equivalent of Romeo and Juliet: a 16th-century story of passion pitted against impossible odds. In contrast to Shakespeare’s red-blooded narrative, however, Peony Pavilion is told through a rarefied language of colours, symbols and visions. The ballet’s heroine, Liniang, falls in love only in a dream, and the tumultuous effect this has on her life is expressed through a sequence of ravishing but highly ritualised vignettes. The anguish of desire she feels on awakening is externalised through the presence of her two alter egos: the scarlet Flower Goddess and the cool, gliding opera singer Kunqu Liniang, whose words argue for reason. Ripples of Liniang’s anguish continue, beautifully, to eddy through the ensemble that follows, a chorus of white-clad maidens whose delicate tendrils of dance seem shaken by gusts with desire. More beautiful stage pictures follow as Liniang dies for love and is whirled through tumbling snowflakes to a black underworld.

Yet while the emotions of the characters remain very codified and reserved, the poetics of the staging act in combination with the dancers’ exquisitely nuanced style to draw us into a curiously moving world. The singular power of Peony Pavilion, and its exotic remove from western story ballets, is clinched in the last scene. Liniang is finally delivered into the arms of her lover, but not into a routine fairytale wedding. Rather, the mortal and spirit worlds join together in a wild, wheeling circle dance – a cosmic union that celebrates the marriage of the entire universe.

Got it?

Well, I was there for the ballet, with the exception of watching the students from Northern Ballet School at The Dancehouse, I have not seen any other ballet production, let alone something as prestigious as the National Ballet of China. It was inevitable that I find myself in the audience of a ballet piece, I’ve been keen to learn more about the dance.

I was completely mesmerised by the dancers, they looked beautiful but so fragile and frail. They’re anything but, I wasn’t blown away by the set, I was captivated by the ballerinas and their immense strength. All the things I picked up from Ailsa, I watched for them. Their arm movements, their toe points, the posture and core strength – it was pure joy to see professional ballet dancers. They were so graceful and the lead Cao Shuci was so expressive, she was seared on my mind all evening – it made me think about performance on stage, how important it is to express and be the character you are.

My eyes were glued to their feet, their petit battement (peteet-bat-mont?) was to behold – mind you, I was watching with virgin eyes, ballet is still a new world to me. Their techniques, as should be, were wonderful, I observed the way they stretched, balanced and leaped, how they moved on the floor, and the lines of their arm positions. There was so much going on, luckily we were in row C, that’s one seat from the stage. On the positive side, I saw plenty of details in their movements – the downside was I didn’t experience the overall stage that much. It was fine, a small sacrifice to be able to see them up close. Towards the end of Act 2, I did notice tired legs (or was it?), they shook a little while balancing – only fractionally, noticeable close and probably not from the Circle seating above. It was barely visible, they’re professionals, what did I expect?

I had a taste of ballet and I definitely want more, I found myself watching their feet and techniques more than the story itself. That’s because I’m learning ballet, I wanted information, I wanted to see how they danced.

I’m so glad to have seen this.

I adore it and want to see more!

Trump wins

In News, Politics, Random, Rant on November 9, 2016 at 12:59 pm

Well… I woke up to this terrible news.

My heart sank and I felt like crawling back under the duvet. It’s not that the result will affect me, I fear the symbolic meaning of his win. After Brexit, we’ve invited fear back into our hearts and left an ill-suited egomaniac in charge of the most powerful country on Earth. A finger away from the nuclear button you wonder which of his persona will take office, he said so many terrible things during his Presidential campaign – you couldn’t tell what was fantasy or reality.

He promoted so much hate and fear, and at the end the majority voters were white – as one American commentator on the news called it a ‘whitewash’, the neglected middle part of the country sick of the establishment. It isn’t dissimilar to the UK where the neglected turned up to vote. The world is going right, xenophobia is creeping in, people are sick of immigration, borders are going back up. The price we are paying for overlooking the working class, the rich got richer, the poor learned to vote.

I could dwell on his vast collection of soundbites that would frighten anyone, including his treatment of women and childlike behaviour, but what’s the point. He’s won it. This is another dark chapter in 2016, it’s turning out to be a terrible year.

The coming weeks, months, years will be interesting, let’s pray – now even the atheists are praying, for a stable future. Mark this historic day – for all the wrong reasons.

All Hail President Trump…

Metatarsal injury? No dance :(

In Dance, Rant on October 16, 2016 at 3:12 am

I haven’t danced for three weeks. Not since 22nd September when I had my last Contemporary class. I somehow hurt the top of my big toe on my left foot. It was painful for a few days, then it was fine as long as I avoided the cobbles on the way to work. The pain came from weight distribution of my sole, any force that pushed my toe up, gave me a sting. I didn’t like the clicking sound either when I rubbed it, I iced it two nights in a row, saw some funny colour spotted on the skin but it wasn’t really that painful. Not when it’s flat on the ground, it was always the cobbles on the canal.

I limped and took my first whole week off dance to rest for Montreal, I figured it’ll go away in my second week. It was ok until we went up to Mount Royal on our third day, the uneven ground triggered my pain, and at one point my bone (?) clicked on every step I made – it felt awful. It was uncomfortable than anything, like a heat inside my toe. I was careful not to aggravate it more, I felt it one more time on the day we came back. I was uncomfortable dancing on it on my third week. By then, I booked an appointment to see my physio at the earliest opportunity, sadly it’s on the coming Monday. I took the decision to pull out of the show, it was the earliest I could let Ailsa and Carlotta know. I wasn’t sure how it’ll heal, I could be ok, or I won’t be… I don’t want to tap and feel my toe snap! It was terrible telling Ailsa, she looked really stressed, I felt so bad at the end. Carlotta too, I let the team down.

I didn’t want to risk my toe more, in fact today was the first time I felt uncomfortable, I decided to fully ignore it and treat like it’s ok – that’s the only way I could confidently stress-test it. It went alright all week but somehow it clicked earlier in the afternoon, so I was right not to dance. On the flip side I’m quite excited to watch instead, I’ve always yearned for a break because I’ve been in 7 or 8 successive shows, for once I wanted to sit down with the audience and enjoy it instead. I’m looking forward to it very much.

I’m feeling miserable though, all week I’ve been restless and feeling plumb, I haven’t exercised for three weeks and I’m itching to dance again. I have this desire to move, to exercise and burn off my calories again, I feel fatter by the day! I’ve been watching Louise on Strictly Come Dancing, her smile and the look on her face when she dances – I understand that, that’s how I feel when I move, I’m at my happiest. My fitness is so low, three weeks is a long time out, and I have a feeling it could be four weeks pending on the result of my Monday visit to the physio. I really want to know what is up with my toe, and if possible WHEN CAN I DANCE!?

I really, really, really miss dancing.


EDIT: I have Neuroma, trapped nerves, so I need to mobilise my two toes and when possible, wedge the big toe and next one apart. It’s not actually the joint, but the area in-between the toes. *Sigh. Hope it heals.